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Harry Howell

Sport: Baseball

Born: November 14, 1876

Died: May 22, 1956

Harold Taylor Howell was born November 14, 1876 in New Jersey, and grew up in Brooklyn. Stocky, fast and powerful, he polished his pitching and hitting skills in sandlot games and began augmenting his work as a plumber and musician by playing for pay in his early 20s. In 1898, he joined the Brooklyn Bridegrooms and pitched two games late in the year. In 1900, he hurled 110 innings for the Bridegrooms, winning 6 games and finishing 11 as they won the pennant by 4.5 games over the Pirates.

Harry spent the 1903 season with the New York Highlanders. Their ace pitcher, Jack Chesbro, taught him a spitball and he quickly mastered the pitch. He was traded to the Browns at the end of the season and over the next five years was the club’s top pitcher. Harry’s version of the spitter was particularly wet—so much so that his infielders sometimes had trouble handling the balls hit to them.

Nicknamed “Handsome Harry” for his theatrical good looks (he actually appeared on stage), Harry was a fan favorite in St. Louis and the object of affection for many female fans. This led to a divorce with his wife in 1907.

Harry won 78 games for the Browns between 1904 and 1908, and led the AL in complete games in 1905 with 35. That season he struck out 198 batters—the fourth-highest mark in the league. Harry’s highest ERA during those years was a microscopic 2.19. Technically, his 2.06 career mark for the Browns is the lowest in Baltimore Orioles history. Harry was an exceptional fielder, too. It was like a fifth infielder when he was on the mound, an important advantage in the Dead Ball era. He played more than 100 games in the field during his career, including all four infield spots and all three outfield positions.

In 1909, Harry tore muscles in his right shoulder throwing the ball around the infield during a practice. When his sore arm failed to heal, he underwent surgery, which was unsuccessful. He served as a coach for St. Louis in 1910 and was accused of trying to bribe an official scorer on the final day of the season to change an error to a hit so that Nap Lajoie could beat out the hated Ty Cobb for the batting title. AL President Ban Johnson forced the Browns to fire Harry and his manager, Jack O’Connor.

Unable to pitch, Harry played one more year as a minor-league infielder before becoming an umpire. In his later years he moved to the Pacific Northwest where he found work in shipyards as a steamfitter. He also worked for the Spokane minor league team in his 60s. He passed away in 1956.


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